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Isabel (Young) Crary

Established in 1891, the Peterborough Y.W.C.A. began offering physical culture classes for women and by the early 20th century were actively and successfully promoting women’s fitness. Like so many women of her generation, Isabel Crary can say that she benefited from the opportunities the YWCA provided for her development as an athlete. She joined the gym and swim classes and soon became a competitive swimmer representing Prince of Wales Public School at the Friday night swim competitions. In 1937, under the leadership of Miss Caroline Littlefield, the YWCA ornamental swim club “The Silver Finettes” was formed. Isabel Crary was a member of this club along with Pansy Forbes who went on to form the very successful Peterborough Ornamental Swim Club. Recognized as pioneers of the sport in Canada, this team won the 1953 North American Championship defeating a strongly favoured California team. In 1954 they were the Canadian Champions and won the American Athletic Union Championship in Florida defeating the same California team. The club was invited to give a demonstration performance at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. In 1955 the team won silver at the Pan American Games in Mexico City. Although still a member of the team, work commitments denied Isabel the opportunity to participate. Isabel played in the Peterborough Ladies’ Basketball League for the YWCA, Quaker and Payne’s Transport, winning numerous league championships and the opportunity to play in the provincial play-downs. Her life long love of swimming translated into many years as a volunteer swim coach in Bridgenorth as well as for the YMCA disabled swim program. She volunteered for 40 years with the Peterborough Civic Hospital Auxiliary. Isabel was named Volunteer of the Year in 1977 for contribution to her community. From her youth in the 1920’s to her success in both basketball and ornamental swimming in the 1940’s and 50’s, Isabel (Young) Crary is an example of the strong women of her era who forged the way for future generations of female athletes.